(Bloomberg) -- Days before his sentencing, Parker H. Petit took one final swipe at his detractors.
In a letter to the judge overseeing his case, the 81-year-old, convicted last year of securities fraud, scolded short sellers and others he said cost him his career, reputation and perhaps his health.
“My cancer was probably triggered by my frustrations with the illegal short sellers and the investigations that I think went out of control,” wrote Petit, former chief executive officer of biotech firm MiMedx Group Inc., who suffers from recurring bladder cancer.
On Tuesday, Judge Jed S. Rakoff will sentence Petit in federal court in Manhattan, bringing to an end a business career that spanned more than five decades before it unraveled.
Petit left MiMedx in June 2018 and was indicted a year later, accused of bribing customers, falsely recognizing revenue and lying to the board and auditors.
In November, a jury found him guilty on one of the two counts he faced, carrying a maximum sentence of 20 years. His former deputy, Bill Taylor, was convicted on a count of conspiracy, but acquitted of a second charge.
Prosecutors have asked for a “substantial” imprisonment for Petit and the maximum five years for Taylor. Rakoff will sentence Taylor on Wednesday.
In late 2020, Petit hired Matt Schlapp, a prominent conservative activist and lobbyist with strong ties to Donald J. Trump, to lobby for a presidential pardon, according to a federal disclosure form. Petit was finance chairman of the former president’s 2016 Georgia campaign. The effort, which cost Petit $750,000, was unsuccessful.
In his Feb. 16 letter, Petit told Rakoff he hadn’t knowingly committed fraud and asked to avoid a prison sentence. Around two dozen of his family members, friends and former colleagues also submitted missives, vouching for his character.
“I know that all crimes require a motive, and I simply do not know what would be the motivation for a successful serial entrepreneur to become a fraudster at the age of 78,” wrote his wife, Janet Petit.
It ‘s a question that’s dogged the former CEO.
Before leaving retirement in 2011 to take over Marietta, Georgia-based MiMedx, Petit founded and sold several biotech companies, amassing more than $100 million in the process. He owned a seaside mansion in the Florida Panhandle. Johnny Isakson, a former Republican senator from Georgia, said in 2012 that he’d “never known a finer guy.” His name adorned a biotech research center at the Georgia Institute of Technology and, later, Georgia State University’s football field.
MiMedx, too, seemed like a success story, growing into a $2 billion company. But that rise came on the heels of Petit and Taylor engaging in a scheme to keep up a long streak of beating increasingly aggressive revenue targets, prosecutors said last year.
In 2017, short sellers cast MiMedx’s financials into doubt. Federal investigators circled. The board began an internal probe and the stock plummeted.
In interviews, former MiMedx employees told tales of improper sales practices, illicit payments to doctors and a culture where those who raised concerns were shut down. The board’s probe found Petit had ordered the installation of a video surveillance system that secretly recorded employees to find and undermine whistleblowers.
In his letter, Petit said he accepted responsibility for the accounting irregularities but expressed no remorse. And he painted himself as a victim of conspiring short sellers and regulators who deliberately turn enforcement into a “witch-hunt.”
He singled out Marc Cohodes, calling him “one of the most corrupt short sellers in the country.” Reached by phone on Monday, Cohodes said he considered exposing wrongdoing at MiMedx as one of his finest achievements.
“He’s the definition of a white-collar criminal,” Cohodes said.
Concluding his letter, Petit said he’d already been “severely penalized” because his 2018 resignation cost him his severance agreement and deferred pay.
In January, MiMedx sued Petit, seeking to scrap its obligation to pay his legal fees and recoup money it has already spent. Petit said that could end up costing him $15 million and bringing him close to personal bankruptcy. He has yet to formally respond to the suit.
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